This year has been different for this Sens fan. While others sat back last year and contemplated what their team could do in the off-season to get to where my team was, I sat and watched (mostly embarrassed, partially angry) as my team quickly conceded the Stanley Cup to Anaheim in 5 games. This year, I find myself not even remotely attached to the idea of watching the top two teams battle for hockey supremacy. I sit and consider what it would be like if Philadelphia and Colorado had of stayed healthy throughout the post-season, and how much would be different if John Paddock had not lost the team in Ottawa.
For the League itself, it has been another year of profits, and another post-season of record breaking viewers nationwide, yet has anyone noticed the lack of intensity on the ice, coupled with the number of series that really were not all that close? I can't help but suggest that while the parity has grown closer, the league has really turned itself away from the type of series that defines a playoff run. While that doesn't seem to make sense, I believe that this logic in routed in the number of goals scored, and the ability to score them in each game.
Consider this. How many close games have you seen in your life? If you are a hockey fan, I am sure you'll go on and on about the overtime thriller in 96, or the series clinching nail biter goal scored by your teams biggest star in 89, but can you honestly tell me, in the last couple years, when you felt that way about a game? Gary Bettman believes scoring goals will bring fans into the seats, and he is absolutely right. Those who don't get the tradition, and rivalries, will never understand the importance of a 1-0 or 2-1 victory in the post-season, and how deflating that can be for the loser. They won't be able to acknowledge the importance of a great goaltender sporting a stingy 1.25 goals per game average, because to them, it is not exciting.
I have watched quite a few different tournaments and finals throughout the last month or so, including the World Championships, the Kelly cup finals, and the Memorial Cup, and I have to say, they have all far exceeded what the NHL Playoffs provided. Not only has the competition proved to be better, but so has the heart and dedication displayed on the ice. So what do I think the NHL should do? Find a way to instill a new sense of urgency in the players minds. Bring back the competition of the pre-lockout era, where teams were not getting blown out every 5th game, and finally, start focusing on fan retention as well.
What do you think as a fan? Do you think the new progression of the league is great, or do you think they are taking two steps back, every step forward?